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Should you read someone’s email or texts?

Posted on Monday, April 25, 2011 in dating, Honesty, Kat, Relationships, Self image

A cute 30ish couple in the early stages of romance were sitting next to Sean and me at the sushi bar last weekend. As their appetizer plates were being cleared away, the guy excused himself to go to the bathroom.

And then his cell phone — in the pocket of his jacket — started ringing. I could see the woman tense up, and I knew exactly what was going through her mind — who the heck’s calling him at 8:30 on a Saturday night?

She didn’t say anything to him when he came back, but she didn’t have to; the voicemail beeps were enough to alert for him that someone had called. He took the phone out of his pocket, glanced at the missed call number, and placed it back in his pocket without missing a beat. She smiled, a tense smile, the whole time.

It  took less than a few minutes, but I could tell it planted the seed of something that will last a lot longer — relationship insecurity. Haven’t we all been there? Our sweetie gets a call or a text at an unusual hour and our mind starts wandering.

Or perhaps we do more than wander; we look.

Is it ever OK to look at your partner’s cellphone texts or computer emails? Is it ever OK to listen to your partner’s voicemails?

Without permission, of course.

People do it all the time — that’s how Elin caught Tiger and it’s how thousands of other couples did, too. And, that’s how I caught a former boyfriend,  and it’s not something I’m particularly proud of.

What makes someone look at or listen to someone else’s private stuff? Curiosity, no doubt, which, according to the old saying “killed the cat.” Yeah, well, looking didn’t kill me, but it did kill the relationship. He didn’t dump me for looking — although that probably was in his right. In any event, he wasn’t too happy about it. But, by looking I suddenly knew too much, although, hey, it was certainly stuff I needed to know — he was cheating on me!

So I dumped him.

Do the ends justify the means?

Didn’t I become just as deceitful as he was by poking around where I had no right to poke?

Why did I look? Probably because I already knew on a subconscious level that something was wrong between us, as most of us do who look or listen. If you look, something — like trust — is missing or something — like insecurities — is present in your relationship. Maybe both.

I swore I’d never do that again because it revealed an ugly side of me that I just didn’t like. I didn’t want to be that person. And, I have kept my word to myself. But that doesn’t mean that my heart hasn’t skipped a beat  when Sean’s phone rings at a weird time. Although I’d feel totally OK asking, “who’s that?” But I often don’t. Because I trust. And if somehow, some way I shouldn’t trust anymore, I feel pretty confident it will eventually be revealed without me having to go looking for it.

  • Is it ever OK to look at someone else’s text messages or emails, or listen to someone else’s voicemails?
  • Have you done it? Has someone done it to you?

Photo © Nevena Kozekova –

Bring on the comments

  1. brian says:

    aside from her looking at his text
    leaving a cellphone on to ring at a sushi bar?
    justifiable homicide if i was on the jury

  2. Teresa says:

    Yes, it is absolutely okay. You do whatever it takes to protect yourself and know what you are involved with. If your partner truly loves you and has absolutely nothing to hide, he will shrug it off and not care that you glanced at his phone. I looked at my daughter’s father cell phone after a 9 year relationship with him and that is how I found out that he was cheating on me and taking my daughter with him to see her. So, yes, it is absolutely okay. Trust is earned not given outright.

  3. Steve says:

    She could have just asked “who was that?”.

    These days in addition to being a wrong number, it could have been spam or a coworker without a life trying to drag work into the guy’s weekend.

  4. Steve says:

    I wouldn’t care if I was getting fellatio hourly. If a woman read my mail or listened to my calls I would dump her on the spot.

  5. jim
    Twitter: mobilene

    I’m a one-woman man, period, and so anyone who’s jealously snooping in my messages gets dumped, period.

    However, I’ve had reason to believe past partners were not faithful. If I had access to their messages, I would have gone snooping.

    Double standard perhaps.

  6. A dude says:

    He should have offered who it was so she didn’t have to wonder, although 8:30 on a Saturday night does not scream “It must be a lover!” to me- that’s just paranoid in my book.

  7. Vincent says:

    Its nice to be able to trust the person we are dating and not need to micromanage them and not need to control them and not need to control their friendships and relationships.
    People have enough love to share with lots of people and no one should monopolize on the other person.
    I am happiest being able to share my love and private communications with my friends too, and that makes me a better person and better partner too because then I can be who I am!!!

  8. William Belle
    Twitter: wqbelle

    Steve says, “I wouldn’t care if I was getting fellatio hourly.” I’m still trying to clean up the coffee I spit all over my keyboard. [laughing uproariously]

  9. The Observer says:

    I would agree with other posters that if there’s smoke there’s fire. A strong, trusting relationship doesn’t create an urgency to start snooping and spying (OK, gathering intelligence). Some people are naturally suspicious, of course. The vibe must be apparent for a partner to feel the need to override that mechanism that says “no, that wouldn’t be right to look–its private”. Sometimes the dialog begins with the revelation–and the Kat is out of the bag. So to speak %-{

  10. Kat Wilder says:

    Should you read your #boyfriend's #email or #texts?

  11. Kat Wilder says:

    Brian — LOL! Yes, people — that’s why the phones have mute, and an off button!

    Teresa — I’m sorry about what you had to go through. If you had asked him to see it first, wouldn’t that have given you what you wanted to know? Also, you must have felt something was amiss in order to want to look.

    Steve — sure, wrong number. Can happen. But, really — even with hourly BJs? Whoa! 😉

    Jim — Hmm, yes, perhaps double standards. Although, we always know where we stand when it comes to our own honesty; not so for others.

    Dude — yes, and welcome to the world of some women …

    Vincent — Honesty is always attractive…

    William Belle — LOL! He’s a man who knows his limits!

    TO — It’s true — strong, trusting relationships don’t “create an urgency to start snooping and spying.” But sometime, people are just curious.

  12. Steve says:

    FWIW, I saw an article in the news recently about someone suing an ex-partner for reading their email. The legal system may be catching up to this sort of thing. It looks like it is going to be taken as seriously as a stranger opening someone else’s snail mail.

  13. BloggyDaddy says:

    I’ve only done it once, but it was after my ex-wife finally admitted she was having an affair and it was like my mind went nuts. I just had to know who it was, what was said, etc. and I learned my lesson. Next time (god I hope there isn’t a next time), I’ll leave it at the confession without all of the sordid details.

  14. Kat Wilder says:

    Steve — sure, the whole social media thing is beginning to bite us (as in divorces) so sooner or later reading emails, Facebook stalking etc. will catch up with us, too.

    Bloggy Dadday — After she admitted the affair, knowing anything else was sprinkles and icing — not necessary to have, but tasty until it makes you sick …

  15. Chopper Papa
    Twitter: chopperpapa

    I’ve had it happen to me and I’ve done it to one other person. THe one that I did it to I actually found out she was f’ing around on somebody else. We had just been together for a short time and I had a small sneaking suspicion. I have no reservations about what I did in her situation. She was a cheater, enough said. She dumped me on the spot.

    The woman that did it to me checked my text messages and found nothing but felt guilty enough about doing it that she fessed up. I dumped her on the spot. She had cheated on her former husband and admitted that she has passed on her sins to another person.

    I don’t think it is ever appropriate, often we look for a reason and seeing proof is all we need to end the relationship when our being upfront and honest with the person would be a far better course of action.

  16. Dan says:

    “I wouldn’t care if I was getting fellatio hourly. If a woman read my mail or listened to my calls I would dump her on the spot.”


    Because healthy, functional relationships are not informed by distrust and selfish paranoia…